Fly V Australia’s Jonathan Cantwell rode to a triumphant finish on Saturday at the 2010 Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The seventh stop of the USA CRITS Series marked the second victory in two weeks for the 28-year-old Cantwell, who won the Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove on August 2. Cantwell outsprinted UnitedHealthcare’s Jake Keough and Patrick Bevin at the end of a hard-fought race that saw several heartbreaking field splits rise and fall.
“I’m in good form coming off Superweek and Elk Grove,” he said. “I think I’ve pinned on a number eight times in the last two to three weeks and have won my seventh or eight bike race in a row, so I feel good.”
In the women’s race Colavita-Baci’s Theresa Cliff-Ryan once again put her stamp on the event with a decisive victory, out-kicking veteran sprinter Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) and Joanne Kiesanowski (Tibco).
Slow start, big crash
The event started off fairly uneventfully, but a huge crash just past the start/finish line shook things up with 38 laps to go. Due to the size of the spill multiple free laps were awarded to the field. Cantwell and Luca Damiani (Kenda Pro Cycling) achieved some small separation from those who had remained upright following the mass tumble, but they never got more than eight seconds before being pulled back.
Once the field settled down again, riders were clocking in at nearly three minutes per go-round on the breezy 1.3-mile course. An 11-man group including heavy hitters like Australian criterium champion Aaron Kemps (V Australia), Aldo Ino Ilesic (Team Type 1), Mark Hekman (Team Mountain Khakis-Jittery Joes) and Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) moved off the front of the re-energized field and quickly gained 25 seconds on what remained of the pack. The gap grew by another 20 seconds with 24 laps to go, momentarily signaling that the bigger squads in the field were content with the composition of the break.
Sensing that the leaders were only cooperating so much, Emile Abraham’s Aerocat team and AXA Equitable Cycling-CRCA began to reel the break in. A $1,000 lap prime did the remainder of the damage — V Australia’s Zach Davies left his companions to scoop up the prize and the temporary split helped to press the reset button on the race with just 16 laps to go.
The lead group was whittled down to seven riders including Hekman, Davies, Holloway, Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Lisbon Quintero (AXA-CRCA), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Jim Stemper (Kenda).
It was quickly apparent that the re-shuffle had taken some of the gas out of the breakaway. With 10 laps to go the gap had been reduced to five seconds. As the catch came, a second major split formed with 22 strong riders. UnitedHealthcare and Kenda had four men apiece in that move, while Bissell and Kenda had three each. The new break quickly fashioned a 25-second lead.
Cantwell defies the numbers game
Outgunned inside that group, Davies was forced to wring whatever he had left out of his legs on Cantwell’s behalf. Eventually, reinforcement appeared in the form of Alessandro Bazzana. And coming into the final drag down to the finish line, Cantwell did what he’s done so successfully in recent weeks, leveraging that teamwork toward another victory by just three-tenths of a second over Keough.
“I was a little isolated towards the end despite our guys doing a good job all race,” Keough said. “It just worked that Cantwell had a few more guys than me. They did a good lead-out and I was on their wheels, but I got a little boxed in and had to open up my sprint late.”
For crossing the line in first place, Cantwell banked $12,500 on the team’s behalf and now looks towards his final two races of the season — next week’s USA Cycling National Criterium Championships in Downer’s Grove, Illinois, and the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium in Binghamton, New York, which is the penultimate stop on the men’s 2010 USA CRITS calendar.
Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable Cycling-CRCA) was once again awarded the leader’s jersey in the USA CRITS Series.
“Tonight was really tough, but he did what we had to do,” Barrows said after he descended the podium. “We missed the break, but we made sure to mark (second overall) Issac Howe as well as we could. I got caught behind a crash, but gave everything I could to catch back up. I didn’t have a lot left for the sprint, so Issac made up a little ground going into Thater.”
Cliff-Ryan skates to another win
The smaller women’s field started its race in tough, humid temperatures. Blows were traded, but no one team had really staked a claim on the $25,000 purse by the time they were 30 minutes into the proceedings.
Shontelle Gauthier (Colavita) took the mid-race prime, stealing a few points away from overall USA CRITS series leader Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation).
With four laps to go Kate Bates continued the attacks for Colavita, but nothing would stick, and it became clear that a sprint finish was in the offing. Colavita and arch-rival Tibco began massing at the front in order to set up their respective lead-out trains. Colavita, which had been been doing double duty throughout the evening in defense of Catherine Cheatley’s NRC lead, now had to switch gears and launch Cliff-Ryan.
Tibco struggled a little through the last few corners, trying to put Kiesanowski in contention. The team eventually got some help from Sam Schneider on the run-up to the finish, but her positioning was slightly off.
“It’s a long way from that last corner.” Kiesanowski said. “I just found myself at the front a little too early.”
Cliff-Ryan, however, was able to make hay out of Tibco’s miscalculation and crossed the line with no less than four bike lengths over Van Gilder and Kiesanowski.
“It did kind of get bunched up coming out of the final corner, but Cath (Cheatley) was able to give me the perfect lead out and it turned out to be a great sprint for me.” said Cliff-Ryan, a former inline skating champion.
“We’re also leading the overall team competition in the NRC so we couldn’t let Vera Bradley Foundation go (all night) because they’re sitting in second. But if it came down to a sprint it was down to me to go for the win.”
USA CRITS series leader Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation), who finished fifth, held her lead over second-place Tiffany Pezzulo (Threads.com-DFT). She remains optimistic that she can hold onto the jersey through the Chris Thater Criterium, which wraps up the women’s side of that competition.
“It was definitely more important for me (today) to be top five so that I could maintain the overall in the CRITS series,” she said. “Chris Thater is the final, so I hope I can keep things under control and hang on to the jersey.”